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LegoFanTexas: Looking for Input on a Bricklink Transaction Issue

LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
edited November 2012 in Buying & Selling Topics
I just had someone send me a PM asking about how to handle a problem with a customer. Seller sold a retired set on Bricklink, mint in sealed box.

Customer gets the set, opens it, finds that one bag of parts is missing, but has a duplicate of another bag.

What do you do?

-------------------

My first reply? Turn the situation around, put yourself in the buyer's shoes and this just happened to you, what would you want a seller to do for you? At least do that much.

What would I do?

1. Offer a refund for a return, I would pay return shipping
2. Offer a discount if the customer wants to keep it as-is

Finally, there is another option, LEGO might well have replacement parts, if the customer calls LEGO Customer Service, they might be able to easily figure out what parts are missing, and can verify from the customer things like the batch number on the box and other details, then ship the missing parts.

Of course, that requires a willing customer, they may simply not want to do that.

If I got such a set back, I might do it myself if the set is expensive enough, or I might just dump the parts into my parts buckets and move on with life.

Easy to say, I know, when you sell thousands of LEGO sets, but the principle should stand if you sell 1,000 sets or 1 set, how do you want to be treated as a buyer? Do the same when you're a seller.

Makes the world a nice place to live. :)

(yes, I know a missing parts bag in a retired sealed set is not the seller's fault, but someone has to deal with it, and I don't think it is the buyer's fault, so it reverts back to the seller in my personal opinion)

-------------------

Anyone have any other thoughts or suggestions?

Comments

  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    Hmm... Tough one, as you say, it isn't the sellers fault that the set had a missing bag, but someone has to deal with it. I think the buyer needs to allow a bit of grace for the seller, as its really a problem with the manufacturer.

    Speaking as a buyer (I've never sold any Lego) you need to accept that buying a retired set, MISB, has this risk associated with it.

    Solution - I think if the buyer does not want to deal with Lego to see if the bag can be replaced, then the seller should just refund and have the buyer return the set. But yeah, I have a lot of sympathy for the seller.
    Legoboy
  • doriansdaddoriansdad CTCMember Posts: 1,337
    I would offer the buyer a full refund and pay return shipping OR offer a 20% discount if they are willing to keep the set and advise them to contact TLG to see about getting a replacement bag. Keep it simple and keep the customer happy.
  • nkx1nkx1 Member Posts: 719
    edited October 2012
    What an annoying problem. My first choice would be to try to convince the seller to obtain the missing parts from Lego. Second choice would be to offer a small discount, just to be done with it. Third choice, only as a last resort, would be to offer to offer a refund. I'm unsure of Paypal's policy regarding who pays the return shipping.

    I have a somewhat related experience: I sold a #10177 (Boeing Dreamliner) used via ebay a while back. The buyer received the product but claimed many pieces were brittle and broke. Although I bought the set used myself, the pieces were fine when I shipped them, and I'm not really sure what happened. Perhaps a combination of age and cold during shipping caused it; who knows. In any case, the buyer was extraordinarily understanding of the issue, and pretty much said that's a risk he incurred when buying used Lego. Long story short, he ended up getting free replacement parts from Lego. I gave him a $20 refund, just because I felt bad he had to hassle with the issue.
  • gmpirategmpirate Member Posts: 1,654

    I would offer the buyer a full refund and pay return shipping OR offer a 20% discount if they are willing to keep the set and advise them to contact TLG to see about getting a replacement bag. Keep it simple and keep the customer happy.

    Pretty much what I do.
  • RedbullgivesuwindRedbullgivesuwind Brickset's Secret HeadquatersMember Posts: 2,052
    As a buyer (I rarely sell) I would firstly expect help to identify the parts that are missing. As they say two heads are better than one. At most I would hope for a small discount. As long as the box is mint and had clear signs it has not been tampered with. It cannot be the sellers fault and as said it is the risk that you take buying old sets. In my opinion I don't think I would be right in asking for a refund.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    Not sure about the us, but in the UK you would have no choice but to offer a refund if you were reselling rather than just selling an unwanted present. It absolutely should be the minimum you do. Also it is the sellers fault, the contract is between the seller and the buyer, if the item isn't as sold then it's your fault not lego's. The seller could then take it up with who they in turn had a contract with or the manufacturer directly. This is why, unless you have a guarantee or waranty beyond your statutory rights you would/should contact the retailer first for faulty or damaged goods.

    However, you'd hope that buyers would be reasonable and work with you. I would think the seller should do the legwork of getting replacement parts either from lego or if agreed through bricklink though. In this case it seems clear that the buyer isn't messing the seller around, they're not claiming it didnt arrive or anything that might be dodgy after all.

    Ultimately if you want the upside of reselling, you have to accept the downside. Returns, faults and theft. If you're not willing to then choose a different path.
  • LegoboyLegoboy 100km furtherMember Posts: 8,837
    As @StuBoy said. Buyer bought a sealed set. Seller sold a sealed set. It should be treated as such. The seller can't be held liable for parts missing.

    If an 80's Transformer figure (behind the see through window in the box) was sold as MISB, but the buyer decided to rip the box open and shove batteries in it for his kids to play with, is the seller, who's been sat on it for nearly thirty years, liable for one of his eyes not lighting up or something? He sold a MISB toy, nothing more.
  • CapnRex101CapnRex101 United KingdomAdministrator Posts: 2,354
    I would certainly approach Lego on the subject. I have experienced a similar issue when buying an old MISB set where one of the large pieces which is not kept in a bag was missing. I called Lego about it and although the part was discontinued, they said they kept a stock of every part from every set until they run out and sent a replacement. Of course sometimes moulds are re-used after being discontinued so the pieces must be kept even after they are no longer produced.
  • LegoboyLegoboy 100km furtherMember Posts: 8,837
    edited October 2012
    ^ This is true. They have a separate stash (not available to purchase) used to make good TLG errors. The separated stash is created when the quantity in the stash for sale falls below a set amount.
  • BillybrownBillybrown UKMember Posts: 748
    This has had to me on the one occasion with an EOL set. It was one part missing and luckily Lego still had spare - apparantly they keep 2 or 3 sealed sets when an item is discontinued incase there are any issues. Buyer was happy to receive the spare component within 7 days of reporting the issue.
  • DadDad UKMember Posts: 816
    ^ Apparantly they keep 2 or 3? I think it will be more than 2 or 3, don't you?

  • BillybrownBillybrown UKMember Posts: 748
    Dad said:

    ^ Apparantly they keep 2 or 3? I think it will be more than 2 or 3, don't you?

    You would think so, but Im only going off what they told me.

  • AmberylAmberyl Member Posts: 193
    As a buyer, I would distinguish between "mistakes that are Lego's" and "mistakes that the seller may partially be at fault". In either case, allowing a return is probably the best thing that can be done. If the mistake is Lego's, hopefully Lego would make it right -- but if Lego is unable to do so, I think the seller should refund.

    I recently bought a NISB retired set on eBay. It arrived with two seals obviously broken -- the tape had actually come off partway and it was very clear that it had been opened and resealed. Fortunately all the contents seem to be present (I decided to build it immediately rather than putting it in my build queue with some other matching sets). If anything had been missing, or the set had been filled with Megabloks, etc., I would have insisted on a refund, as I would have considered it the seller's responsibility to ensure set integrity, especially with a label of NISB.
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    Just a few minutes ago, I had to issue a refund for an item that seems to have gotten lost in shipment, a very rare event.

    I shipped a pair of SW polybags to Germany on Sept 12th. The tracking shows being scanned multiple times in the US, but nothing after leaving the US. Since that was 6 weeks ago, all I have is a customer saying, "hey, I never got my items".

    Could it have been lost? Yes

    Could the customer have received the items, they weren't scanned, so they just want free stuff? Yes

    Could the post office deliver it tomorrow? Yes

    But I can't control any of that, so at the 6 week mark (for an international 1st class mail item), if the item doesn't show as delivered and the customer complains, a refund is all a seller can do.
    littletoki
  • gmpirategmpirate Member Posts: 1,654
    ^ Any recourse with USPS insurance? Did you have them go down to their post office? A couple times I prodded customers to check and sure enough it was there.

    I stopped doing international orders as this just came up too many times -- especially during the holidays. There were shipments that arrived "after" a refund and I'm sure you know how helpful USPS is in the meantime. The stress of hearing people email me every couple days as to where their package is is just not worth it to me. If this were my sole business I would probably do it as there is good money to be made there, but as a side thing I just stay away from it.
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    As a side business, I probably wouldn't do it either.

    And no, there is nothing I can do with USPS. Buying insurance for a pair of polybags is a waste of money. Just one of those costs of doing business.
  • y2joshy2josh Member Posts: 2,002
    On eBay, I very rarely use First Class International, as there's really no guarantee of anything with it. If the buyer requests it and they have reasonable feedback, I'll happily ship it First Class, but, as above, if it gets lost, you're just out of luck as the seller.

    Priority and Express are much better in that they have a maximum delivery window and I can get right on an International Inquiry if they aren't showing up as delivered within that timeframe.
  • sidersddsidersdd USAMember Posts: 2,432
    ^^ I'm going through the exact same issue with a German buyer. I've only ever "lost" one shipment in my 3 year history of selling - and it was to a German buyer. This will (likely) be my 2nd case. Again to a German buyer. I don't bother with insurance on small packages under $100. I try to encourage it for international shipments but if the buyer has a high enough feedback rating, I don't push it.

    Did you have your buyer check with German customs? Sometimes they hold the packages and if the buyer calls they can confirm if the package is being held. This has happened a couple of times for me.

    I've also learned that German customs often requires a printed invoice attached to the cover of the package.
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    This was a $25 sale with a cost to me of $15, it isn't worth the time to fuss about it or to bother the customer over. This customer has over 10,000 feedback on eBay, I highly doubt they are scamming me over $25. :) It was a pair of polybags sent in a #2 Poly Bubble envelope with an electronic customs form, so that shouldn't be the issue.

    It is probably sitting in the bottom of a postal bin somewhere, probably will get delivered in 3 months. :)
  • FatMattFatMatt USMember Posts: 502
    Out of the hundreds of items I have sold. Only a few have turn up missing in the USPS system. They were each small items in #000 bubble mailers. I have always either shipped them another if I have more of the item, or given them a full refund. That is just a risk you take with shipping uninsured items. Sometimes they do show up later. Once, about a year ago, I purchased a lot of complete sets for $400(total value of the sets was about $3,000). The seller shipped them in five separate boxes. One of the boxes never showed up. The seller graciously refunded me 20% of the purchase price, as he should have and I would have done the same had it been me. I spent a lot of time with USPS trying to locate the package, but it has never shown up. Anyways, these things happen. If you don't want to take that risk, then don't sell or at least provide insurance.
  • Pitfall69Pitfall69 0 miles to Legoboy's houseMember Posts: 11,446
    edited October 2012
    The thing I would add is a disclaimer about sealed sets. TLG does make mistakes...recently with Fire Brigade, Grand Emporium and Haunted House. Yes, this isn't the buyers fault. This also isn't the sellers fault. When someone opens a sealed set, they are probably going to build it. Depending on what parts are missing, they should be willing to work with you on how to get the missing parts.
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    My reply below is for the USA, different countries have different laws.
    Pitfall69 said:

    The thing I would add is a disclaimer about sealed sets.

    That is fair enough.

    I would caution anyone selling online that such disclaimers are often not worth much.

    If you take payment via PayPal, or via any option that involves a credit card such as Google Checkout, such a disclaimer will not protect you.

    PayPal will back a buyer in such a dispute, but at least they generally require the item be returned. With a credit card chargeback, generally the item doesn't have to be returned.

    Why? The Fair Credit Billing of 1975 basicly says that if you sell an item and take payment via credit card, in short, the seller is on the hook.
    Pitfall69 said:

    TLG does make mistakes...recently with Fire Brigade, Grand Emporium and Haunted House. Yes, this isn't the buyers fault. This also isn't the sellers fault.

    You are completely correct, it is not the seller's fault, but someone has to take responsbility for it, and that generally falls back on the seller's side of the deal.

    Of course, a seller can refuse a return, or tell the customer to go call TLG. The seller just shouldn't be surprised to find out their store terms don't hold up very well.
  • gmpirategmpirate Member Posts: 1,654
    Very true about credit cards as there is no recourse. They care little of why or what or even if its fraud. The buyer gets their card credited, card company collects penalty fees for their trouble and the seller looses all. There is no incentive for the card companies to care otherwise. What is a seller to do? Stop taking credit cards??

    Anyway, it's all part of the risk we take.
  • atkinsaratkinsar Member Posts: 4,272
    Somewhere deep in the recesses of Bricklink I have read their definition of 'Sealed' which specifically mentions that the seller cannot guarantee all of the parts/bags are present inside. Can't find it now but I'm sure I've read it and some kind soul will dig it out for me.

    So they at least cater for this situation in their ToS and you could therefore point the buyer at that. But what you are obliged to do and what you actually do is often the differentiator, or to put it another way, good customer service keeps buyers coming back.
  • BastaBasta Australia Member Posts: 1,259
    I have only ever had to give one refund (sold over 300 items on eBay) and this was only a few weeks ago. It was a Lego set that never arrived, lucky for me it was only a small set, including postage I was only out of pocket about $21. Only issue I had was that the customer did not want to wait adequate time for it to show up, so that took a little bit of negotiating to sort out, but full refund including postage was given.

    I did have another buyer recently who purchased a MISB VW Camper from me, they contacted me to say that two pieces were missing. I directed them to Lego and gave links to claim missing pieces. I did ask that they let me know if they have any issues, I didn't hear back. I really think that this is the best way for a seller to respond to missing pieces from new sets.

    I think I have been lucky, as far as missing or damaged items go but I always label my items well and anything I sell for over about $80 I send Registered post. This seems to work pretty well.
  • meyerc13meyerc13 Member Posts: 227
    If you are a seller, when you run into a situation like this, think through the issue substituting Target or Wal Mart for your name. "I bought this set at Wal Mart and it is missing pieces." It's not Wal Mart's fault, but wouldn't you as a buyer expect Wal Mart to take the item in return? Why should you as a seller have some special consideration that Wal Mart wouldn't? That's part of the cost of doing business. Sometimes you sell defective merchandise, and it is absolutely within the buyer's rights to return that item and expect a refund.

    Likewise, sometimes buyers will lie and rip you off, you can take steps to minimize your risk, but occasionally you'll get burned. The same thing happens to the big retailers, they calculate shoplifting and theft into their prices.

    This is why I don't sell online, I don't want the hassle and the risk. If you chose to sell online, these are the risks you are taking and you should consider them carefully before you make the decision to go into business.

    With all of that said, looking at Basta's post above, when a buyer is missing two pieces from a set, it's probably in their best interest to contact LEGO and get the missing parts, rather than box it all up and ship it back to you. If you as a seller frame it in that light, I think most buyers would be reasonable. If you try to say "Not my fault!" I don't think you'll keep that customer.
  • y2joshy2josh Member Posts: 2,002
    meyerc13 said:

    If you are a seller, when you run into a situation like this, think through the issue substituting Target or Wal Mart for your name. "I bought this set at Wal Mart and it is missing pieces." It's not Wal Mart's fault, but wouldn't you as a buyer expect Wal Mart to take the item in return? Why should you as a seller have some special consideration that Wal Mart wouldn't? That's part of the cost of doing business. Sometimes you sell defective merchandise, and it is absolutely within the buyer's rights to return that item and expect a refund.

    I would never even bother trying to return a set with missing pieces, as it's simply much easier and convenient to deal with LEGO's top-notch customer service. Trying to return the now-opened set is just going to be a waste of gas and extra hassle that I'd rather not mess with.
  • gmpirategmpirate Member Posts: 1,654
    ^ I wouldn't either, but there are many people who are buying these sets as gifts and don't know a thing about Lego. All they know is that they bought there nephew a birthday present that is missing pieces. "Just give me my money back and I will go to TRU."
  • ColoradoBricksColoradoBricks Denver, CO, USAMember Posts: 1,676
    @atkinsar, it is located there: http://www.bricklink.com/help.asp?helpID=102
    New Sets: Sealed - Set is brand new, with unopened factory seals intact, all inner bags and contents presumably sealed, intact, complete and untampered with as shipped by the manufacturer. Seller cannot guarantee that a sealed set is complete.
    murphquake
  • atkinsaratkinsar Member Posts: 4,272
    ^ thank you, that was what I remember seeing.
  • Pitfall69Pitfall69 0 miles to Legoboy's houseMember Posts: 11,446
    I think most people that buy on Bricklink are very familiar with Lego. I have asked casual Lego buyers and they have never heard of Bricklink. If they receive a sealed set and it is missing pieces, I would imagine that they know how to go about acquiring them. I could be wrong.
  • Pitfall69Pitfall69 0 miles to Legoboy's houseMember Posts: 11,446
    So far I haven't had any problems with a buyer, but recently I did make a mistake and I made sure I went over the top to make it right. Good Communication is a must. I even included a gift for any trouble I may have caused.
  • gmpirategmpirate Member Posts: 1,654
    ^^ Agree. You are dealing with more educated buyers on Bricklink.
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    gmpirate said:

    ^^ Agree. You are dealing with more educated buyers on Bricklink.

    I would also tend to agree with this, it is just that I don't sell much on Bricklink.

    If I bought a set that was missing a few parts, I'd do what others suggested, I'd just order them from LEGO, I probably would not even tell the seller about it, since I get it.

    But when I sell on other sites, that isn't always the case.

    Keep in mind, I've had sets returned for no reason other than "changed mind" and the set was opened and the box crushed.

    Isn't life fun. :)

    I can count on one hand the number of times I've charged a restocking fee. An opened 10030 UCS ISD was one of them, but most of the time I just refund and move on. Reduces the drama in my life. :)
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 20,309
    I'd tell a seller if he sent me an item missing pieces / a whole bag. Chances are if one set is missing something and he has a number of them, then he might have a dodgy batch.
  • y2joshy2josh Member Posts: 2,002

    Keep in mind, I've had sets returned for no reason other than "changed mind" and the set was opened and the box crushed.

    This was on Amazon, I presume?
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    y2josh said:

    Keep in mind, I've had sets returned for no reason other than "changed mind" and the set was opened and the box crushed.

    This was on Amazon, I presume?
    Yep... how did you guess? :) One of the joys of selling there.
  • atkinsaratkinsar Member Posts: 4,272
    The reason I brought up that wording on Bricklink is because in your original post you mentioned that the buyer bought the set on Bricklink.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    Depending where you are those terms and conditions could be worthless as your statutory rights can't be taken away. Im also guessing the contract is between you and the seller and not bricklink. Failing to adhere to the sites t&c means they can stop you using the site in the future but it likely has no impact on the contract of sale. Of course this only matters if it git to court which it never should.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    ^ if it said it on the invoice that the seller sends by email before payment then that might be different.
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    There are really two issues here that I see:

    1. What a buyer/seller wants to do
    2. What a buyer/seller legally must do

    I personally feel that going above and beyond is good customer service and ultimatly it reduces the drama in my life. I don't wish for everything to be a battle.

    And this goes both ways. As a buyer, I recently received 3 boxes of MISB sets from a forum member here, probably 40 sets total. 3 of them were damaged, 1 was crushed flat (a Helm's Deep of all sets).

    Did I complain? I legally could, I paid with PayPal, I could easily enforce getting my way and demand the seller make good.

    But I didn't, because the price was very good, the seller was very nice about it, and I am just going to open and build that crushed set anyway, so why be a jerk about it? I told the seller not to worry about it, the deal was still fair. The seller still offered money back, which I declined.

    Had it all been crushed, it would have been a different story, but I think in general most people are reasonable about such things, both as buyers and sellers. This is my experience being on both ends of deals.

    It is the outliers, the extremes on both ends that are the source of headaches.

    My personal opinion. :)
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